I’ve been making a conscientious effort to break free from the unhealthy patterns that hold me back in life: an overly inflated sense of responsibility/martyr complex, lack of personal boundaries, and little self worth. While change is never easy, especially when it involves looking at one’s self objectively, the awareness has been coming step by step – with the help of amazing therapist, naturally.
Recently, I realized that even though I am ill, and have limited energy to apply to daily living, I reserve what I do have for my children, waiting for them to tell me their needs before determining what I have left over. Now, my children are all adults with children of their own, so what they require from me is usually child care, and what grandmother does not want to do that? Except looking after a toddler or a baby is quite honestly a real drain on my reserves, and means I have little left for self-care or spending time with my husband.
It is really difficult to confess that this is an issue. I love my granddaughters and want to spend time with them. What I am afraid to relate to my children (and myself) is that a visit from them is about all I can manage and that an overnight commitment can set me back for days. It sounds perfectly logical on paper, so why am I not able to express and act on it?
Waiting has been a defining theme in my life, whether it is serving others ahead of myself, putting my life on hold until something else happens, or “weighting” (a play on the word). I am sure all definitions of this theme relate back to my opening statement. Putting myself first feels wrong, selfish, and even unwomanly. It also means risking the loss of others – perhaps not rationally, but to my inner child, it does.
“Tell yourself it is self-preservation and not selfishness,” a friend tells me. She is amazing at setting boundaries, also lives with a chronic illness, and has no children.
She doesn’t understand, I tell myself, although I like the idea of self-preservation.
Here’s the thing: it is not my children’s responsibility to make sure I take care of myself. They will naturally ask for help as long as it is available to them. In fact, they are relying on my personal boundaries to determine when enough is enough. No boundaries = no win for anyone. I feel guilty saying no to them, but then they feel guilty when I overextend myself and slip backwards.
If I am going to change this cycle I have to be willing to take the risk and say ‘no’. Even typing this makes me feel sick to my stomach. What if my daughters decide that they want nothing more to do with me if I can’t babysit? (See how irrational fear is!)
The thought of it makes me want to eat something, fast: shove those emotions back down before they become real. Egads, more “weighting”!
Sigh! If change wasn’t so worth it we’d all be stuck in our own filth piles. Oh, the work I have left to do….
Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.